When a friend and I drove 2,000 miles to attend grad school at Arizona State, we were young and living on a shoestring. Thankfully, the classes were inexpensive during the summer heat when most people could not bear the furnace (121 degrees at one point). We spent summer after summer taking classes, writing dissertations, and learning from one couple what over-the-top hospitality looked like. Herb and Gwen literally treated us like their own daughters, and, decades later, are still some of our dearest friends.

Herb kept us entertained with his stories and fixed our cars when they were old and weary after thousands of miles of cross-country travel. Gwen was a jewel and was always prepared to feed anyone who happened to drop in. She prepared well in advance so nobody ever left hungry. She would take a part of one day to make seven delicious homemade pizzas. She would freeze them (unbaked) and just pull out pizzas when friends walked through that front unlocked screen door. She also made dozens of homemade chocolate chip cookies and froze them so they were ready at any time. We’d walk in, sit on their milk can bar stools, talk, and eat little appetizers that magically appeared while the pizza was baking. After the pizza, we’d have large warm chocolate chip cookies, with ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream on top. We talked for hours, played games, and just enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere and loved-filled house.

Now Gwen could also put on a five-course high-end dinner of Cornish hen or prime rib, or she could make the best chimichangas, chalupas, cheese dip, and guacamole. You couldn’t eat too much if you wanted to enjoy whatever magnificent dessert she would whip out of the oven at the last minute.

Herb and Gwen took us on numerous vacations in their old RV. Whether we were enjoying the scenery in Grand Canyon, Bryce, or Zion National Park, were 30 miles from the marina camping on the rocks of Lake Powell, or were camping on the cliffs above the Gulf of California in Mexico, Herb had the boat and poles ready for fishing, and Gwen was all equipped to prepare the most delicious meals in our beautiful outdoor settings. She did often add the fresh-caught fish to the menu or the shrimp purchased from the shrimp boats off the coast of Lobos, Mexico.

Even though my traveling friend now lives just a few miles from Herb and Gwen and I am 2,000 miles away, I visit often, and I keep handy a stack of Gwen’s wonderful recipes so I can try to recreate some of those wonderful memories in my own home. In some of our future posts, in honor of our cliff-top camping in Lobos, I’ll share a couple of Gwen’s recipes!


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